Remarks made by Ben Campbell at the Pine-Richland School Board meeting 5/21/12

Ben Campbell was the first of many speakers to advocate preservation of the Pine-Richland programs that were targeted for cuts. For those not able to attend, here are his comments to the board.

I am a 1998 graduate of Pine-Richland. My wife, Kim, is a music teacher in the district. When I encouraged her to apply to Pine-Richland I never imagined that a district that valued all areas of education so highly would ever make these types of cuts to the arts. I am utterly appalled.

I am also a volunteer member of the PR STEAM committee and have attended every meeting of that group. We were asked to find ways to improve education experiences that included Arts with Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.  

My own post-high school path has closely linked music with STEM areas, and I relied heavily on my music foundation built at Pine-Richland.  

Last week I emailed everyone on the board a testimonial on how I benefited immensely from the PR Music program, both in college and in my career as an engineer and college professor. I want to emphasize that it isn’t just the future artist you are hurting with these cuts, but a much broader cross section of your students.

Many of my classmates who struggled academically excelled in the arts and turned the artistic talents they developed at PR into worthwhile and impactful careers as performers, educators, entrepreneurs and more.  

Look at the first three inductees to the alumni hall of fame. Who does this district value? Besides an astronaut, we have Jeff Calhoun, a musical director, and Jon Passavant, a male model with a career that is based on art and phys ed.

Alumni Jason Cappizzi and Neil Walker are heralded for their professional athletic achievements. And our most notable alumni in music, Jackie Evancho, hasn’t even reached middle school yet. So if we place the greatest value on alumni achievements in Music, Arts and Phys Ed, why are they targeted for cuts?

Eliminating the 4th grade music ensembles is akin to delaying reading to 2nd grade, or cutting middle school football and having the students wait until they are old enough to play varsity—they will only be developing their skills while others their age are being recruited by colleges.   

You are undercutting the achievements of your students by eroding the foundation of their education. For a student who has musical aptitude and will be competing for a spot at Julliard or another top conservatory, you are taking a year of practice and experience from them. Our students will not be as competitive.

The administration has admitted there is uncertainty in the budget due to the reassessments, health-care costs and more, so how can you have such certainty that you need to cut 15 teachers to close the budget gap?

Freeze all new initiatives until you know you can preserve the existing commitments you have.

Pine-Richland is a really amazing school district, not because of fancy school buildings and a stadium, but because of the talented educators who inspire their students , especially in the arts.  

Young, ambitious teachers are the last resource any school should cut from their budget.  

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